Not so much am article as just relaying some recent events on outings and some thoughts stemming from them.
We recently had a number of outings with an existing client and some of his friends that were up. No names or clues so I can say without fear of attempting favour, nice guys all - abused phrase these days, but gentlemen all and of old school ethics.
We had a number of outings, but the two ( three strictly ) events relayed here were on separate days and with different members of the group.
We stalked into some large clearfell divided by a high ridge of larch. Following the old harvester tracks. It had rained heavily during the night so the ground was something of a fresh palette.
I quickly started seeing sign that a reasonable group of reds had used the same track and from the condition estimated probably no more than an hour or so ahead of us. Closer inspection showed what could be a youngster imprint - but it seemed slightly ahead of the group and there was a hint of being Roe - particularly as it did not match several clearly red 'fawn' tracks.
The clients expressed real interest in reading these tracks. At one point we stopped near a muddy puddle, only to find it clear of tracks. The question was posed - where are the tracks? A search to the side showed where the animals went around the mud. On pointing out that no of us were standing in the muddy bits and had subconsciously stepped around them - heads nodded sagely and with a clear delight at having pieced together a small bit of tracking logic.
Thereafter the guys spent as much time looking down as up!
Cresting the ridge and dropping down we came into sight of perhaps 10 reds - hinds, the odd staggie and several youngsters. These were observed with rapt attention - complete relaxed as they were, it was fascinating to just watch how they behaved. Glassing on, the rear end of a button buck was visible about 50 metres beyond the reds. This guy was equally relaxed. Rather than periodic area checks, he was clearly just looking round at the lead hind - if she was happy, so was he!
Over time the buck fed back in amongst the reds and back away again.
We watched for perhaps 20 minutes. Never once was there a particular urge or impatience to get moving from the client. The red slowly drifted toward an area that would put them out of sight, so we decided to await developments and chance the buck would linger behind.
Eventually a wind eddy took scent to a hind and after a hard stare the group moved off - including the buck!
Passing through the area the previous tracks could be put into perspective. Around the bases of some - but not all - clumps of 'cotton grass' were slightly soggy clumps. A client asked if that was due to the rain. But I pointed out it was restricted to certain clumps and the lumps went 360 degrees around the plants - not swept to one side. There was genuine pleasure when I advised it was the youngsters. Young deer havent learned that soggy cotton wool is pretty yuck to chew - so they try it. If one does it they all tend to copy. Then after a short while of very fluffy and bland chewing they spit it out in lumps of soggy wool. On the off chance they'd picked a not so good plant they tend to try several before giving it up as a bad job.
Around the next rise we bounced a very nice 6 point buck, but no opportunity for a shot presented and the morning outing finally came to an end.
No deer shot, but a full and thoroughly enjoyable morning stalking as far as the client was concerned.
Same group, different clients and day.
Walking out along a track we came to a huge clearfell. Resting close to trees at the edge glassing soon picked up a Red Stag just in the lee ward of the far ridge. As is often the way, once you spot one others seem to materialise. Rather than the usual short velvet stem or fist sized lump of velvet on the stags around the hinds, this guy had maybe 8-10 inches and brow etc points starting. As each animal became obvious they got bigger and bigger. Then, amongst the grey brash and heather bigger animals still. The leader of this bachelor group was sporting 10 plus points already, some 18 inches of antler and a beautiful symmetrical spread.
We watched this relaxed group for 10-15 minutes, then as the lain animals rose the clients watched each with interest, noting body size, coat condition and depth of chest relative to their heads. Eventually another fickle wind shift didnt take our scent to them, but a cold draught right along their sheltered lee. Off they went.
Moving through their area we cut off the track the opposite way and onto the top edge of a large open area. We stalked along the treeline, constantly watching the area some 100 feet below us. The wind abated with the ground and in the relative stillness you could pick out the occasional flat 'baaaarrrn' of a dis-chuffed ( technical expression ) hind.
Coming around the top of a spur I spied two hinds down below us. Edging round into a better position some 8/9 hinds 2 staggies and 4/5 youngsters hove into view. I motioned to the clients and settled in amongst some stunted spruce - perhaps 80 yards from the group.
Everything was peace and harmony - aside from one youngster. It was tearing about, butting other youngsters, racing all around, then running off out of sight at full pelt. There were no midges etc - all the others were calm. This little 'un was just full of joy and energy... and mischief.
Everytime he moved the clients froze as they assumed they'd been seen. I motioned them in and we sat to watch.
Through glass you could see what I would swear was a 'cheeky monkey' expression on the wayward youngster. Equally the expression on the face of what was obviously the mother was priceless. It was she that was making the flat 'unhappy mum' noise. Funnier still was the self satisfied look on he faces of the other hinds and the disapproving stare of the lead hind. Red Hind group dynamics laid out for us to watch.
Eventually the hind started chasing the little one. This was great fun! The youngster started galloping all over and darting into the trees. Then it sunk in that mum was not happy and a proverbial clout around the ear was pending. The funny game became a catch me if you can in earnest!
Eventually the two ran just out of sight, but with the hind gaining. A short moment later there followed a loud 'squeeek'. Longer still the hind trotted back with a very content expression - followed demurely by an extremely contrite youngster, constantly turning to lick at its rump - where presumably mum had nipped!
Peace restored the group fed on out of sight.
Throughout I'd given a commentary to the client, who remained glued to his binoculars. Lowering them at last the beam on his face said volumes.
Again, no 'kill' that morning. Yet on parting the client expressed thanks for what he called a 'memory day'.
I would say that anthropomorphism is dangerous - but believe the above best reflects events for relaying here.
In the car driving out, both clients separately expressed what a fantastic morning it had been and that it was 'what stalking was all about'. Each is entitled to their views - I happen to agree with these guys. There have been other occasions when the air in the car on returning was thick enough to cut. One Danish client ranted that his whole trip was ruined because my stopping to gralloch the beasts had meant he lost out on 'hunting time' - he was so distraught that the two 6 point bucks he did get in the 3 hour outing were practically of no consequence.
Whilst I cant help but veil criticism by way of what I 've written, that is not really what I'm trying to convey. For who, ultimately, got the best 'value' from their particular outings?